Monday, September 20, 2010

Ethanol industry takes issue with EPA emission rules

Biofuels aren't usually thought of as one of the leading causes of global warming, but new Environmental Protection Agency emission regulations could treat them as such. "The regulations, due to take effect in January, would count as greenhouse gases the carbon dioxide that's released when corn is fermented into motor fuel or when corn stalks, straw and other sources of biomass are burned to make electricity," Philip Brasher of the Des Moines Register reports. "That means a paperwork and financial burden for most of [Iowa's] 39 ethanol plants. The regulations won't require polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but could in the future."

The ethanol industry is appealing to EPA for the agency to reconsider how it regulates biofuel emissions. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports "a typical Iowa ethanol plant would release about 300,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year - if the emissions from fermentation are included - three times the 100,000-ton level that triggers the agency regulation," Brasher writes. The rules won't have much impact on the 15 Iowa ethanol plants already regulated by the federal Clean Air Act, but now the rest of the state's plants will be regulated by the act.

Marnie Stein of the DNR's Air Quality Bureau told Brasher that fees paid on pollutants would likely average between $5,600 and $11,200 per year for the plants. "Those fees could be quite costly for some ethanol plants," Geoff Cooper, who follows regulatory issues for the Renewable Fuels Association, a Washington trade group, told Brasher. Most greenhouse gas calculations don't include emissions from biological sources because carbon released from corn or biomass will eventually be returned to earth as crops and other biomass sources. RFA wants Iowa regulators to exempt such emissions without EPA action, but Stein said the agency has no choice but to mirror EPA's position. (Read more)

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